Today in History - July
On this day in 1851 Victoria separated from New South Wales. On 5 August 1850 Royal Assent was given to the Imperial Statute An Act for better Government of Her Majesty's Australian Colonies which created the colony of Victoria. The Act was proclaimed on 13 January 1851 and came into effect on 1 July 1851. The first Legislative Council of Victoria was sworn in on 11 November 1851 following elections in September. Charles La Trobe was the first Lieutenant-Governor.
On this day in 1850 work began on NSW's first railway lines from Sydney to Parramatta. The Sydney Railway Company was incorporated on 10 October 1849 specifically to build the railway line. The first sod was turned by Mrs Stewart (the daughter of the Governor) at Cleveland Paddocks, at the southern end of the current Central Station and Cleveland Street. The line opened on 26 September 1855.
- See Archives Investigator for Sydney Railway Company (Organisation #10)
- See AIB 54 An Introduction to State Rail records
On this day in 1826 Carl Rumker was appointed to take charge of the Parramatta Observatory. Rumker discovered Encke's Comet in 1822 and a new comet in the constellation Orion in September 1826. In December 1827 Rumker became the Government Astronomer, the first person to hold that office in Australia. He was dismissed soon after in 1829 and the Parramatta Observatory was closed in 1847.
On this day in 1822 the Agricultural Society of NSW (later the Royal Agricultural Society or RAS) was founded at a public meeting in the Red Cow Inn at Parramatta. The Society aimed to encourage profitable cultivation techniques and livestock production. The Society's inaugral Show was held in the following year in Parramatta and the Society disbanded in 1836 and in 1857 the Cumberland Agricultural Society was founded.
On this day in 1813 the first commercial shipment of wool was exported to Britain by John Macarthur.
On this day in 1904 the streets of Sydney were lit by electricity for the first time when the Pyrmont power station was officially switched on. A gold switch was specially commissioned for the occasion and was turned on by Amy Sarah Lees, wife of the Lord Mayor of Sydney. The gold switch is now in the Powerhouse Museum. Direct current electricity was supplied.
On this day in 1901 Hordern's Palace Emporium at Haymarket, Sydney was destroyed by fire. Thousands of Sydneysiders on their way to work watched as the large eight-storey retail store was destroyed by the blaze within two hours. Five people died in the fire, including Harry Clegg, who jumped to his death from the roof. Although the fire caused as estimated half a million pounds worth of stock damage Hordern's was open the next morning in new premises with warehouse stock. The fire paved the way for new building codes and restructured fire fighting services for Sydney.
- See Archives Investigator Simple Search: Horderns
- See Archives Investigator NRS 4265 [7/15760] for more details on this and other fires
On this day in 1836 Rueben Uther, a notable Colonial merchant and hat maker, requested more convict labour to work in his hat factory. Uther was able to house and employ those convicts who already had experience in the hat making field.
On this day in 1945 Ben Chifley became Prime Minister of Australia, taking over the office after John Curtin died earlier in the month. Chifley was born and raised in Bathurst and worked on the railways for many years, taking part in the General Strike of 1917. He was Prime Minister until 19 Decemeber 1949 and he died in 1951.
On this day in 1792 the British Home Secretary authorised Governor Arthur Phillip to make land grants to civil personnel and military officers.
On this day in 1900 the cleansing operations in Sydney to wipe the city of the Bubonic Plague finished. The cleansing of the city also included the demolition of 'slum' buildings. The plague, which hit the city in January 1900, killed 103 people within eight months.
- See images of the cleansing operation, including a pile of dead rats!
- View the images on our Flickr photostream
On this day in 1814 Matthew Flinders died. Flinders, a navigator, hydrographer and scientist, was the first explorer to circumnavigate Australia. In 1798, Flinders, along with George Bass, set sail in a boat provided by Governor Hunter, to prove that Tasmania was an island. A book of his travels, A voyage to Terra Australis, was published on the day before he died.
- See entry in Colonial Secretary's Papers under Matthew Flinders
- See Archives Investigator for NRS 10738
On this day in 1842, Sydney was incorporated as a city. Sydney Town was established in 1788 at Sydney Cove and was named after the British Home Secretary, Thomas Townshead, Lord Sydney. On 20 July an Act (6 Vic No. 3) was passed to 'declare the town of Sydney to be a city and to incorporate the inhabitants thereof'. Alderman John Hoskings was the Mayor of Sydney and the first municipal council meeting was held in the George Street Market Building (now the site of the QVB).
- See entry in Colonial Secretary's Papers under SYDNEY
- See Archives Investigator for City of Sydney Improvement Board
- See a photo of the Old Police Court (where QVB now stands)
On this day in 1936 the 'talking clock' service was first introduced in Sydney. The 'talking clock' meant that people could ring the set telephone number to find out the time from a precorded service. Previously, a caller had to ring the operator, who then checked the exchange clock and quoted the time back. The service was provided from the General Post Office in Sydney.
On this day in 1923 construction began on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The contractors set up two workshops at Milson's Point on the North Shore where the steel was fabricated into girders. The granite for the pylons was quarried near Moruya, where about 250 workers and their families lived in a temporary settlement. Premier Jack Lang opened the Harbour Bridge on the 19 March, 1932.
- See Photo Investigator for images of the bridge, including its construction and the official opening
On this day in 1809 the Hawkesbury River flooded again and eight lives were lost. Previous floods had occurred in 1795, 1799 and 1806. Once again vital crops were lost and starvation was a real threat. The height of the Hawkesbury River at the Windsor Bridge was 14.64m, a records that stood until June 1867.
On this day in 1902 an explosion at the Mount Kembla Colliery killed 95 people. A Royal Commission of Inquiry was appointed by Letters Patent in November 1902 and visited Mt Kembla to view the mine and take evidence from December and early 1903. The Commission concluded that the disaster was caused by an explosion of fire-damp and air, which in turn started a series of explosions of coal dust. The disaster was the worst peace-time disaster in Australia's history until the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria.